To borrow Joe Biden’s infamous quote, “This is a big f—ing deal.”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has canceled six federal trademark registrations for the name of the Washington Redskins, ruling that the name is “disparaging to Native Americans” and thus cannot be trademarked under federal law that prohibits the protection of offensive or disparaging language.
The U.S. PTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued a ruling in the case, brought against the team by plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse, Wednesday morning.
“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion, which is here. A brief explanation of how the Board reached its decision is here.
“The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board agreed with our clients that the team’s name and trademarks disparage Native Americans. The Board ruled that the Trademark Office should never have registered these trademarks in the first place,” Jesse Witten, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said in a press release. “We presented a wide variety of evidence – including dictionary definitions and other reference works, newspaper clippings, movie clips, scholarly articles, expert linguist testimony, and evidence of the historic opposition by Native American groups – to demonstrate that the word ‘redskin’ is an ethnic slur.”(Think Progress)
At present, there’s no immediate impact; odds are, this will go through the appeals process – and given the vagaries of the federal court system, there are no guarantees that this decision won’t be overturned on appeal. On the other hand, given the fact that every team in the NFL – except for the Dallas Cowboys – share in the revenues from team merchandising, if the Redskins lose their trademark all together and the NFL begins losing revenue as a result, don’t be surprised if the league goes to Daniel Snyder and ‘pushes’ him into changing the team, using that arbiter of market forces – the almighty dollar – as the proverbial cudgel. For what its’ worth, I also wouldn’t be surprised if various groups start pressing Redskins’ players over the issue.
Sometimes I wonder if the the Christian Taliban here in America really understand how stupid they must appear to the rest of us here in the reality-based world…quoting:
A Kansas-based group that “promotes the religious rights of parents, children, and taxpayers” is challenging the state’s science standards because they include the teaching of evolution, which the group claims is a religion and therefore should be excluded from science class.
As the AP reports, Citizens for Objective Public Education (COPE) claims that public schools “promote a ‘non-theistic religious worldview’ by allowing only ‘materialistic’ or ‘atheistic’ explanations to scientific questions.” The group argues that by teaching evolution “the state would be ‘indoctrinating’ impressionable students in violation of the First Amendment.”
COPE’s challenge [PDF] states that the teaching of evolution “amounts to an excessive government entanglement with religion” and violates the rights of Christian parents.(Right Wing Watch)
This is one of those “all-or-nothing” bull—- arguments that the Christian Taliban throw up at the rest of America whenever discussions involving any facet of science come up and I hope the judge in this case throws it and them out of their ass….just saying.
Apparently school officials at a central Mississippi high school failed their civics lesson on the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause…either that or they’ll trying to deliberately get a case favorable to the religious bigots of America before the Supreme Court; whichever reason, the ACLU called them on it with a lawsuit over a religious assembly held by school officials….quoting Think Progress:
A high school in central Mississippi finds itself in court after allegedly holding a mandatory religious assembly earlier this month.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed by the American Humanist Association on Wednesday, students were given no advance notice about the nature of the assembly, but were told that attendance was required. It soon became clear, however, when a member of Pinelake Baptist Church opened his presentation by talking about finding hope in Jesus Christ.
The assembly allegedly also warned students against premarital sex, pornography, and homosexuality. As the lawsuit detailed, the program included a video of four speakers explaining how their troubled lives had been saved by Christianity.(Think Progress)
Now, you’re probably asking yourself: “Well, couldn’t students simply decline to attend if they so choose?” Well…a few tried; this is what happened; again from TP…
Soon after, “the assembly immediately turned into a full-blown lecture on the supposed miracles, powers, and teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church Representative encouraged all students to find sanctity in him,” and no one was permitted to leave. “The School’s truancy officer, Jeff White (“Officer White”), harassed several students who attempted to leave and told them to sit back down,” read the complaint.
According to the complaint, the school repeated the same assembly for 11th graders on April 10. A few juniors had been tipped off that it would be a religious assembly and “attempted to go to the library or another classroom instead but they were prevented from doing so by Officer White.” A third mandatory assembly was held this Monday for 10th graders, the suit alleges.(Think Progress)
As the Supreme Court has ruled multiple times over the past 50 years, school-led prayers and religious assemblies are an unconstitutional infringement on the 1st Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which says that government may not establish an official religion. The worst part of all this: the school district, rather than spend money to educate students, they’ll instead be spending money to defend a patently unconstitutional action.
Another example of the Christian Taliban at work…
If SCOTUSBlog’s analysis of today’s second set of hearings concerning marriage equality before the High Court are any indication, it probably is down for the count. For what it’s worth, this is an easier call to make than over Prop 8 in that, in my honest opinion, DOMA is an unconstitutional violation of the Constitution’s Full Faith & Credit clause and should’ve never seen the light of day back in the 1990’s, nonetheless gotten signed by Bill Clinton.
Hopefully the Court, even with some of the geniuses who are currently sitting on the bench, will throw DOMA into the ashheap of history.
Earlier today, I wrote about the Supreme Court arguments over the issue of marriage equality…now, we should look at how the justices could potentially rule on the issue at hand.
- The Democratic Appointees To The Court: Although there has been a mention of Justice Ginsberg’s recent remarks concerning Roe vs. Wade vis-a-vis marriage equality, it would be a major shock to see any of the Democratic-appointed justices rule against marriage equality
- Justice Anthony Kennedy: Though he’s been at the center of some of the Court’s biggest decisions(Obamacare, anyone?) of late, I think it’d be a stretch to see Kennedy rule in favor of Prop 8 due to recent decisions involving gay rights issues. That said, he’s continued to lean to the right in recent years and so, I suspect he could come down against marriage equality.
- Chief Justice Roberts: Though Roberts has had a tendency during his time as Chief Justice to rule narrowly on major issues before the Court, if he’s consistent, he could be the crucial 5th-vote in support of marriage equality. Remember, Roberts’ wrote the majority’s decision in support of Obamacare back in 2012; odds are if marriage equality is upheld, Roberts will again write the majority’s decision.
- Justice Thomas: Considering he’s the most conservative justice on the Court at present, I wouldn’t be surprised if he rules in favor of Prop 8….then again, he could pull a states-rights argument in support of marriage equality, though as I mentioned earlier today, it would be a landmine decision for progressives if he were to vote in favor of marriage equality.
- Justices Alito & Scalia: Pigs will fly and the Devil will order central air conditioning before these two vote in favor of marriage equality, period. End of story.
Thus, the likely(though not certain) breakdown based on today’s arguments looks to be as follows….
- Pro Marriage Equality: Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagan
- Anti Marriage Equality: Scalia, Alito
- Unknown, leaning Pro: Roberts
- Unknown, leaning Anti: Kennedy
- Unknown either way: Thomas
- Likely Decision Based On The Above: anywhere from 5-4 to 7-2 in support of marriage equality
Back in December, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear a set of cases involving both California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act…today the High Court began the first of two days of arguments over the constitutionality of marriage equality as reported by multiple sources. Setting aside what is actually said today and tomorrow, there are, as Think Progress points out, five different possibilities on how the Court could rule(TP quotes in italics below)….
- A Broad Decision: The best, and most obvious, decision would be for the justices to follow the Constitution and the clear command of precedent and extend marriage equality to all fifty states… This would have the effect of not only overturning Prop 8 and DOMA but would also invalidate the 30 or so state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage; it could be, in a sense, the Roe v. Wade decision of this generation.
- California Only? The Ninth Circuit proposed a way to strike down Prop 8 while leaving most other states free to engage in marriage discrimination (the court said that voters were not permitted to withdraw the right to marry once it had been established by the state Supreme Court); the logic of the ruling was thus confined to California. In essence, this would confine the court’s decision to the 9th Circuit, since the Prop 8 case heard in California and the circuit declined to review the trial court’s decision; it would, however, keep existing bans outside the circuit in place for the time being.
- A Constitutional Dodge? In both cases, the Court could potentially rule that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, a decision that would cast a cloud of uncertainty over the rights of gay couples. In this instance, the Court could simply say, in effect, that the trial court’s decision remains since the plaintiffs(those seeking to validate Prop 8) lacked constitutional standing to bring the case before the High Court; as in possibility #2, the Ninth Circuit decision would stand and Prop 8 would still be invalidated but for the same reasons as in #2.
- A Conservative Stealth Attack? Several prominent conservatives are pushing a dangerous legal theory that would strike down DOMA on states’ rights grounds, and potentially endanger Social Security, veterans benefits and progressive taxation in the process. This could be the worst of the pro-marriage equality decisions since it would invoke a favored tactic of the Right: using the 10th-Amendment as a cudgel to shatter the modern social-safety net. In effect, a decision of this nature would be a Pyrrhic victory for progressives & liberals: a win for marriage equality at the expense of the social-safety net
- A Loss. Ultimately, however, it is important to remember that this is a severely conservative Court, and even so-called swing vote Justice Kennedy is a severely conservative justice. Equality could lose. With all of the above, let’s not forget that, as Think Progress points out, the Roberts Court is a conservative Court; the same court that gave us Citizens United could very easily rule against marriage equality.
Later on I’ll take a look at how the justices could potentially rule but make no mistake; the reverberations from whatever the Court decides will be felt throughout the United States for years to come.
In an announcement released earlier today, the Supreme Court has stepped into one of the major social issues of the day, the issue of marriage equality, deciding to hear a pair of cases on both the constitutionality of marriage equality and whether sections of the Defense of Marriage Act which prohibit federal recognition of same-sex marriage are constitutional. In the Windsor case(Windsor v. United States, 12-307) the issue the Court will look at is DOMA’s recognition that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, which has resulted in federal denial of benefits to same-sex couples since the law’s passing back in the mid-90’s. In the Prop 8 case(Hollingsworth v. Perry, 12-144) the issue is principally the constitutionality of the California ballot initiative, which overturned a state Supreme Court ruling which recognized same-sex marriages as constitutional under California state law.
So what could potentially happen when the Court hears each case? In the Windsor case, the focus is on Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages in so far as allocation of benefits go and whether this violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In the Prop 8 case, the question the Court will likely try to answer is whether the state can take a right away from citizens that it had previously granted, the reference being that Prop 8 was promulgated in response to the California state courts’ granting of marriage equality rights to its’ citizens. Considering the Court’s June decision on health-care reform, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the Court will rule at present but whatever they decide will have ramifications far beyond the Court’s view.
Ironically, in both cases the Court will also be looking at whether the plaintiffs in each case have the proper standing to bring each case forward to the high court; why is this important? Because if the Court rules that neither of the plaintiffs have standing, then they cannot rule on the merits of the cases since the Court’s Article III requirement that both sides have standing to argue the cases would not be met.